Rugging and Vitamin D Deficiencies

Rugging a horse, eliminates the ability of the skin to take up Vitamin D from natural sunlight.

Direct sun exposure is the best way to absorb vitamin D.  Recent studies demonstrate that with the absence of Vitamin D, alopecia can develop. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17223342

Should I rug

Modern practises of rugging horses sometimes continuously may predispose the horse to suboptimal intakes of vitamin D.  Restricting turn out time for sun exposure will fail the body having time to convert vitamin D in the skin.  https://ker.com/equinews/vitamin-d-equine-diets/

Karen Langston for the National Association of Nutrition Professions says “Vitamin D maintains blood calcium levels and it regulates calcium and phosphorus, which keeps bones and teeth hard.  Vitamin D deficiency – The biggest concern is softening of the bones… weak muscles, bone pain and tenderness”.

At trial low serum levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with an increased risk for progression of osteoarthritis of the knee. http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/709914/relation-dietary-intake-serum-levels-vitamin-d-progression-osteoarthritis-knee

“Vitamin D plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy mineralized skeleton for most land vertebrates.   Vitamin D keeps the serum calcium and phosphorus concentrations within the normal range to maintain essential cellular functions and to promote mineralization of the skeleton.” https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/126/suppl_4/1159S/4724783

Dr Juliet M Getty explains: “Reduced appetite, slowed growth, physitis in growing horses, bone demineralization (leading to stress fractures and bone deformities), and poor muscle contraction, are deficiency outcomes.  Horses do best when they receive at least 6.6 IU of vitamin D per kg of body weight. For an 1100 lb (500 kg) horse, this translates into 3300 IU/day. Sunlight exposure – 5 to 8 hours/day – under optimal conditions, will produce this amount of vitamin D.  http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/VitaminDThesunshinevitamin.htm

More from Dr Getty “For a horse, the hair coat alone creates such a significant barrier to absorption that it typically takes five to eight hours of exposure to ultraviolet light for horses to produce enough vitamin D to satisfy the daily requirement.  Compound that with additional barriers like rugging, fly spray, coat conditioners or decreased oils from bathing, it become apparent a horse may not be getting enough vitamin D.”

Frequent bathing with soap inhibits the body’s ability to produce vitamin D simply because the precursor (7-dehydrocholesterol) is washed away.

Dr Claire Thunes PHD suggests “those with limited exposure to sunlight get fed levels of vitamin D that meet the current NRC guidelines.  You can achieve this by selecting a fortified commercial feed or supplement that provides about the guaranteed levels of vitamin D, and then feed the correct amount.”

https://thehorse.com/19730/do-horses-need-vitamin-d-supplementation/

2 thoughts on “Rugging and Vitamin D Deficiencies”

  1. Thankyou for this information.
    It is something ,as a nurse ,I have always wondered about .
    Humans need sunlight to make Vit D and I’ve always wondered if horses were the same .
    I have asked many people who are very horse savvy and have far more experience than me who rug their
    horses 24/7 and they say the horses get enough sunlight on their faces and legs ….!
    I’m now pretty sure that this is not true .
    I do worry because my thoroughbred gets Queensland Itch and I have to keep him covered through the spring and summer .
    I presume that I’ll need to buy some oral Vit D
    Thankyou Judy Jaeger

    1. Thank you Judy for your thoughts. We still recommend rugging an itchy horse from dusk to dawn whilst biting insects are about. We are keen to share the word with horse owners to let the Vitamin D reach their horses natural coat. A healthy horse will shine as nature intended to protect from UV rays. Cheers, The Nude Horse

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